Sharjah, November 03, 2023 : “We are in desperate need of translations but finding funds is like finding a small fountain in a big desert,” observed Lucien Leitess, founder of Unionsverlag Publishing and winner of the 2023 Tarjuman Award for translation, at a symposium on the Turjuman Awards titled “Why translate?” at the ongoing Sharjah International Book Fair. Also in the panel were Lebanese academic Sobhi Al-Boustani, Italian translator Isabella Camera D’Afflitto, Spanish translator Luis Miguel Perez Cañada, and German translator Hartmut Fahndrich.
Leitess said he has been in the business of translation for 45 years, with 500 translated books from 70 countries. The Swiss publisher lamented that there is no agenda for reducing translation costs and shared an utopian dream to tear down trade barriers. “We need an international masterplan for this and it will be a turning point in literature,” he added. The 7th Sharjah Translation Award or Turjuman, which was presented on the opening day of SIBF, went for the translation of Raja’a Alem’s novel, The Dove’s Necklace which was originally published in Arabic by Centre Culturel Arabe in Morocco.
“I am convinced that we are in a perpetual need to build bridges with the Arab world. We teach Arab literature in many Italian universities and this could not have been done without translations,” said Isabella Camera D’Afflitto, a professor of Arabic literature from La Sapienza University in Rome. She added that she has been in the business of translation since 1984 when she published the translation of a Palestinian novel into Italian.
“I wanted Italians to understand Palestine had an issue to be solved and I felt a novel would help understand the issue better”, said D’Afflitto, who has overseen the translation of numerous novels and short stories by Arab writers from Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and so on.
Sobhi Al-Boustani, who has taught Arabic literature in well-known French universities and the Lebanese University, lauded the institution of Tarjuman award and its role in aiding translations into European languages. “Turjuman is in close relationship with society that is interested in translation. It is here to encourage support for translation and herald a transformation,” Al-Boustani noted.
Luis Miguel Perez Cañada, award-winning translator and academic, said an experienced translator can unravel dreams and longings. “Translations add colour to a grey-hued world. Without them, we live on the borders of silence,” said the Moroccan-Spanish writer. “I translate because Arab culture has so much to say to the world.”
Hartmut Fahndrich compared translations to a Richter scale or earthquake measuring tool for society. The German scholar, who has translated numerous works of Libyan writer Ibrahim al Koni, pointed out the need to recognise translators along with publishing houses.
SIBF 2023, which is running at Expo Centre Sharjah from November 1-12, has the theme “We Speak Books”.